Today I had my first close-up encounter with the Japanese banking system. I needed to transfer money to a Japanese company. Of course, I could have done it from my European account, but international transfers are rather expensive and it would have taken much too long. Hence, I decided to go to a bank nearby and pay the amount in cash.

The experience was pleasant: The moment I walked into the bank, a young clerk came to welcome me with a friendly “Irasshaimase” and asked if she could help me. “Why, certainly” I said and produced the piece of paper where I had prepared all necessary information – together with the Japanese phrase for “I’d like to deposit money into an account”. After agreeing on a cash transfer, she showed me the machines and said she would help me. So we went there together, she pressed the very first button for me and said

“Please enter your phone number.”
“Huh? My what?”

At this point the tone of the conversation changed because I had to admit – technological hermit that I am – that I do not have a phone number in Japan. Nope, no mobile, also no company phone number, and no, I don’t have anybody else’s number with me either… To which revelation she politely but firmly explained:

“No phone number, no transfer.”

So, I apologized profoundly, left the bank, and went home.

I was lucky that my landlady was there and explained that banks ask for the number in case something goes wrong with the transfer, which it apparently does sometimes. And that it was no problem at all of using her number for the transaction.

So, armed with the same piece of paper – now amended with the phone number of my oya-san – and with my passport – just in case they decided to need it after all – I returned to the bank.

Same clerk, same “Irasshaimase”, same machine.
Happintransaction receiptess ensued when I produced the phone number. The procedure from there was simple: Type of account? “Deposit”. Name of Bank? “Mizuho”. Name of branch? Enter account number – surprisingly short. Enter your name and check the name of the recipient. Enter cash – yes I have coins! – coins first, then bills. Wait for return money and receipt – keep that!

The whole transaction took maybe five minutes, and it would have been completely impossible to do without help because there were so many kanji involved everywhere… I could only read the two most important ones myself: “Enter Money”.

In the end, both the clerk and I were relieved, and I even more so about one hour later when  I got a confirmation email from the company that they had received the money. I just love the swift banking in Asia…